Weekend Tripper: Want the cutest pumpkin patch date? Head to Abbotsford

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      The sun is shining, the air is crisp, and the leaves are changing colour, which can all only mean one thing: it’s high time you track yourself down a pumpkin.

      There’s no October date more fitting than the classic pumpkin hunt, but grabbing that seasonal sphere from the pile at your local grocery store simply isn’t going to cut it these days. There’s an *art* to obtaining that iconic orange orb, and, if you do it correctly, you’ll be enjoying a beautifully bountiful relationship with it come the cold winter months. The stakes here have never been higher.

      So what does it take to create a memorable, majestic, marvelous pumpkin patch hit for you (and, ideally, your special someone)? Well, you’ll need to shake off the preconceived pretensions harbored by most Vancouverites about heading any further east than Boundary and take a day (or weekend) trip into the Fraser Valley—Abbotsford, to be specific.

      Home to some of the most sought-after pumpkin patches in the entire province, a handful of glorious wineries, a quaint and cozy downtown, and a number of downright delicious dining spots, Abbotsford is the perfect place to revel in autumnal outings—even if it does require a day’s Evo rental (but hey, the gas is free if you go that route) and an hour-plus-change of drive time.

      Here are a few must-hits for when you find yourself in the Raspberry Capital of Canada.

      Restaurant 62

      Photo by Chandler Walter.

      The food? Delectable. The service? Stunning. The vibe? Immaculate. Anyone thinking they can’t enjoy an elegant, sophisticated, and supremely delicious meal anywhere outside of downtown Vancouver needs to head over to Restaurant 62 ASAP.

      With a wine list the size of a small novel, fantastic features, and farm-to-table ingredients that are capable of making even vegetables the star of the show, this place is the perfect post-pumpkin patch dinner.

      And yes, there is, incredibly, a happy hour.

      Cannon Estate Winery

      Photo by Chandler Walter.

      The newest winery in the region, Cannon Winery has been six years in the making—having spent that time fine-tuning the soil, constructing a picture-perfect tasting room, and, of course, creating some of the Fraser Valley’s finest wines.

      Patrick Blandin, the viticulturist and winemaker at Cannon, notes that patience is one of the key ingredients when putting together a good bottle of vino.

      “We started this project in 2016, so we had the time to study the ground, to see what was possible to do, to plan all the terraforming,” he explains, “because that will modify it a bit—and the land was higher than the neighbour’s plot.”

      Even when you get the winery landscape into the right shape, it takes a certain combination of time, skill, and chemistry to get the soil just right. 

      “It’s patience. It’s a lot of patience,” he says with a laugh. “The soil is a very fragile thing and you have to take your time.” 

      As with any winery, Cannon is especially enjoyable on a sunny day, when you’ll be able to post up on one of the many adirondack chairs strewn across its pristinely kept lawn, enjoy the sounds of live music played by a local musician, and partake in some bocce, cornhole, or any of the other lawn games on offer.

      Downtown Abbotsford

      Photo via Tourism Abbotsford/Facebook.

      It’s kind of giving Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow. No, really: with so many small shops offering various treats, a gem shop that is also the spot for hotdogs and a game of pool, an incredibly well curated record store, and a board game cafe with a seriously expansive selection of games, downtown Abbotsford embraces the cute, the quaint, and the peacefully quiet. 

      Grab a coffee, post up on a community patio, and dive into whatever cake, cookie, or ice cream may have caught your eye. 

      The Table Bistro

      Photo by Chandler Walter.

      We could talk about the incredibly aesthetic decor of the place. We could talk about how they’ve seemingly perfected the Caesar. We could even talk about how friendly the staff is, with one of the managers even coming out to say thanks for stopping by.

      But we gotta talk, specifically, about the eggs Benedict. This might just be the best eggs Benedict there is, period? Not just in Abbotsford, not just in the Lower Mainland, but like, in existence. What’s more is that we can’t actually even track down The Table Bistro’s breakfast menu online to confirm what goes into creating this dish (besides sun beams and pure unadulterated joy, of course), but we’re 95 per cent sure it wasn’t just some glorious fever dream.

      We’ve got the photos to prove it, at least.

      Maan Farms

      Photo by Chandler Walter.

      Maan Farms is a well known destination for all things farmyard, family fun, and fruit wine, having recently won the award for best fruit wine in Canada. They’ve also got the scariest haunted corn maze in Canada, and blood bags filled with wine to go along with it.

      Director of Fun Gurleen Maan (who reality TV aficionados may recognize from CTV’s Farming For Love) says that coming up with exciting and creative aspects of the pumpkin patch experience is a crucial part of the job.

      “With every product you make, you want to tell a story,” she shares. “It’s an experience to drink the wine, and it’s a moment that you can capture. That’s really important to us.”

      Maan Farms is also home to the iconic Spice Cream (pumpkin-flavoured ice cream served in an adorable hollowed-out pumpkin), plenty of pettable animals, and their newest attraction: the incredibly Instagrammable Forest Pumpkin Patch.

      “If you go in there, your heart just gets warm,” says Maan. “It’s completely green, and there are trees, a swing, a witch, and two pumpkin houses. It’s pretty magical.”

      Taves Family Farms

      Photo by Chandler Walter.

      If cider is more your style, be sure to head over to Taves Family Farms: home to everything from a full-blown cidery and U-pick apple orchard to a petting zoo and their very own Magical Garden that contains over 9,000 pumpkins.

      “It’s what we’ve poured all of our creative energies and money into this year. We decided to create an area where we do sunflowers in the summer and then we plow it under, and in a week we transform it to our magical pumpkin garden,” says Corinne Taves, one of the owners of the farm. “We really have been focusing in the last year on trying to make really great photo ops for people.”

      A quick look at the Taves Farm geotag on Instagram shows that they have most definitely succeeded in that pursuit.

      Because is it really a day at the patch if you don’t get a picture-perfect shot with a pumpkin?